Do You Want It?

Do You Want It?

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Merry Christmas!! Finishing what I started yesterday…
He shall judge between the nations, and shall decide disputes for many peoples; and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore. The prophetic word from Isaiah, the great prophet of Messiah. Isaiah can see the time coming when swords will be turned into plowshares, spears into pruning hooks. In other words, weapons will be turned into tools of agriculture. It would be like us turning tanks into tractors, missile silos into grain silos.

Chinook Helicopter
So the question remains, do we see the world as a battleground, where our weapons must always be ready at a moments notice? Or is it a Garden, calling out and begging for loving care and nourishment? Is the world fundamentally a dangerous place, or is the world fundamentally the recipient of God’s grace and loving mercy?
Isaiah sees the world better than it is. He sees that God is going to act in Jerusalem to change the world. He doesn’t know when it will happen, but he knows it will be big, and after God acts nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore. Isaiah sees a world where weapons are turned into agricultural tools, a world where people choose to walk in the light of the lord and learn war no more.
For us, Christ has come. It’s time to walk in the light of the Lord and study war no more. War is over. We have to choose to walk in the light of the lord, and if we do, there will be war no more.

Light-of-the-World.jpg
O house of Jacob, come, let us walk in the light of the Lord. The invitation of Christ. The invitation to walk in the light of the Lord. Whether the rest of the world walks in the light, we who say Merry Christmas MUST walk in that light. We don’t get to wait to walk in the light when Jesus comes the second time. If we confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, we must walk in the light of the Lord right now, and learn war no more.
I’m going to stay away from talking world peace and the warring nations in the world today. I’m not going to talk about the warring nations of the world, I’m going to talk about you and me. Let’s talk about our own personal wars. Let’s talk about our wars with family, friends and coworkers. Our political wars, our Facebook wars. In these wars, it’s time to turn our words that cut like a sword into words that cultivate love, respect, and friendship.

The apostle James says this – “What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you?” James‬ ‭4:1‬ ‭ESV. Passions here can also be translated “evil desires”. War is not born somewhere “out there“. War is born right inside each and every one of us. Wars come from the evil desires and passions within us. We have war out there because we have evil desires within us.

war-in-heart
We have war in the world because we have war in our heart. We have war in our heart because we have evil desires. We don’t think we have evil desires, we just think we are right. Nobody who goes to war, on Facebook or a literal war with guns and tanks, never think they are unleashing their evil desires. We just think we are right. But wrap your head around this one – thinking you’re right is the evil desire. More specifically, the desire to be right at all costs is the evil desire.

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This is introduced very early in the Bible. The original sin has to with prioritizing the desire to be right. We want the knowledge to judge, to know good and evil, we want to be right all the time. Adam and Eve ate from the tree of knowledge, wanting to be right all the time. Before you know it – their kids are killing each other.
The promise was – you will be like God. You will be wise. You will be right! ““God knows that your eyes will be opened as soon as you eat it, and you will be like God, knowing both good and evil.” The woman was convinced. She saw that the tree was beautiful and its fruit looked delicious, and she wanted the wisdom it would give her. So she took some of the fruit and ate it. Then she gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it, too.” Genesis‬ ‭3:5-6‬ ‭NLT‬‬. Tasted good! Before you know it, Cain is killing Abel, and it only gets worse from there.
War is the offspring of prioritizing being right over being in relationship. Adam and Eve ate from the wrong tree. They ate from the “being right” tree. The priority should have been being in relationship, with God and each other. But being right was more important than being in relationship.

im-right
Jesus was right. But Jesus didn’t go to war to defend being right. People go to war because of the evil desire of being right. We all think we are in the right. But we know at least half of us can’t be right, we are deceived.

right-and-wrong
Jesus chose relationship over being right. You have to forgive to stay in relationship. In every relationship, at some point, something will happen where you believe you are right and being wronged. You might be right, or you might be deceived. It doesn’t matter for you. It happens in every relationship of any significance. From your view, you are in the right. If that’s what is important to you, if you chose to be right and go to war, your evil desire is winning out. The desire to be right above all else is what leads to war.
If it is more important to be in relationship than be right, you forgive. Jesus chose relationship over being right. When the world was wronging Him, He forgave us. Jesus chooses relationship with us over being right.

cross-bearing
War ends “out there” when it ends inside of each of us. It ends when it ends in our hearts. “Then he said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it.” ‭‭Luke‬ ‭9:23-24‬ ‭NIV‬‬. When we accept Jesus’ terms of discipleship, which are non negotiable, war is over. War is over, because there is nothing to fight for. We expect to lose. We expect to lose our lives, so we can find our true lives. He taught us to walk in the light of the Lord. Jesus taught us His ways. Jesus taught us to value relationship over being right. He taught us to value forgiveness over vengeance. He taught us to value trusting God over fighting for our rights.

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When this happens, war is over. It’s part of the salvation being offered by Jesus Christ. Do you want it?

war-is-over

“”It shall come to pass in the latter days that the mountain of the house of the Lord shall be established as the highest of the mountains, and shall be lifted up above the hills; and all the nations shall flow to it, and many peoples shall come, and say: “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob, that he may teach us his ways and that we may walk in his paths.” For out of Zion shall go the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. He shall judge between the nations, and shall decide disputes for many peoples; and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore. O house of Jacob, come, let us walk in the light of the Lord.”

‭‭Isaiah‬ ‭2:2-5‬ ‭ESV‬‬

http://bible.com/59/isa.2.2-5.esv

John Lewis

God has Come

God has Come

god-is-coming

One last message from the advent season…

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Say to those who have an anxious heart, “Be strong; fear not! Behold, your God will come…
God will come. This is the word from the poet of Christmas. Do you have an anxious heart? Are you waiting for God to show up and do something? Are you waiting for some kind of salvation? Are you troubled and anxious, distressed and distraught? God will come.
Isaiah is the great poet of Christmas. So many of our great Christmas carols and Christmas cards come straight outta Isaiah. Emmanuel, “God with us”, that’s Isaiah. Unto us a child is born. The prince of peace. All Isaiah.

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 “The land mourns and languishes; Lebanon is confounded and withers away; Sharon is like a desert, and Bashan and Carmel shake off their leaves…And the peoples will be as if burned to lime, like thorns cut down, that are burned in the fire.”…The sinners in Zion are afraid; trembling has seized the godless: “Who among us can dwell with the consuming fire? Who among us can dwell with everlasting burnings?””

evelasting-fire

Isaiah‬ ‭33:9, 12, 14‬ ‭ESV‬‬. This is not on a Christmas card. But it is from the poem before the poem that is a Christmas card. Isaiah anticipates a time when both people and planet are broken. He anticipates a time when both land and lives are burning. A time when people are broken by idolatry and injustice…the land itself seems to bear witness. This can be seen throughout the the prophets from Isaiah to Malachi. Isaiah sees a time when the land will be burning, like a desert, and the people will be blind, deaf, and disabled. The land will be burning, and the people will be blind to the problem, deaf to the word of God, and unable to do anything about it.
But…something is going to happen to change all of this brokenness. “The wilderness and the dry land shall be glad; the desert shall rejoice and blossom like the crocus; it shall blossom abundantly and rejoice with joy and singing. The glory of Lebanon shall be given to it, the majesty of Carmel and Sharon. They shall see the glory of the Lord, the majesty of our God. Strengthen the weak hands, and make firm the feeble knees. Say to those who have an anxious heart, “Be strong; fear not! Behold, your God will come with vengeance, with the recompense of God. He will come and save you.” Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped; then shall the lame man leap like a deer, and the tongue of the mute sing for joy. For waters break forth in the wilderness, and streams in the desert; the burning sand shall become a pool, and the thirsty ground springs of water; in the haunt of jackals, where they lie down, the grass shall become reeds and rushes.” The poet tells us God will come and change everything. And when He does – the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped; then shall the lame man leap like a deer, and the tongue of the mute sing for joy.

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John the Baptist knew what he was sent to do. He was sent to prepare the way. “In those days John the Baptist came preaching in the wilderness of Judea, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” For this is he who was spoken of by the prophet Isaiah when he said, “The voice of one crying in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord; make his paths straight.'”” Matthew‬ ‭3:1-3‬ ‭ESV‬‬. But he had already figured how the messiah would come. “”I baptize you with water for repentance, but he who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor and gather his wheat into the barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.”” ‭‭Matthew‬ ‭3:11-12‬ ‭ESV‬‬. Make no mistake – John the Baptist was looking for a warrior king. Jesus was supposed to bring his winnowing fork and separate the wheat from the chaff – by force. He was from the royal line of the great warrior king David. He was just 150 years after another great warrior, Judah Maccabaeus. This is what John expected. This is what almost everyone expected. Jesus was to come and change the order of the world, flip things upside down. We know he did this…just not as people expected.

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John the Baptist is the one who prepares the way. John took this from Isaiah 40. John has recognized Jesus as messiah. As he took a prophetic stance against Herod Antipas marrying his brothers wife…he gets arrested. So as he sits in a first century prison run by a king who didn’t much like him, John is waiting for God to do something big. He knows Jesus is Messiah, he announced to the world that Jesus was Messiah. But John is waiting for the revolution, and it’s not happening. So he sends his disciples to Jesus with a pointed question. Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?   Jesus hears the question, and just keeps doing what he’s doing, which is healing people, preaching good news to the poor and and enacting the kingdom of God. In that hour he healed many people of diseases and plagues and evil spirits, and on many who were blind he bestowed sight. Then He sent John’s disciples back to John with this message – “Go and tell John what you have seen and heard: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, the poor have good news preached to them. And blessed is the one who is not offended by me.” What Isaiah said would happen when God comes, Jesus was doing. The eyes of the blind were opened. The ears of the deaf were unstopped. The lame walked. And blessed is the one not disappointed.
Jesus did not come to change the pecking order. He did not come so that the Jews could now be on top and peck down on the Romans. Jesus came to heal broken lives, throw out the pecking order and change the world. Blessed is he who is not disappointed by the coming of God…

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Jesus was announcing and enacting the kingdom of God. But it was possible to miss it. Not just Pharisees and Sadducees. Even John the Baptist got confused. He knew exactly who Jesus was, but he too got discouraged and confused.
The Pharisees missed Jesus as Messiah because for them, it was all about moralism. It was all about following the rules and following the law. And if you didn’t follow all their rules along with gage Law of Moses, then you were on the outside looking in on the kingdom of God. Then Jesus showed up freely forgiving sinners, just like that, and it disqualified Him immediately as any Messiah in their mindset. They missed God when He came to them.
The Sadducees were the religious elites controlling the temple. All the priests were from the Sadducees. They saw the world through the lens of religious sanction and elitism. Then Jesus comes and welcomes even those banned from temple. He goes straight to the least elite in society, the worst sinners, tax collectors, even lepers. He has dinner with them, visits them in their homes. So for most of these elites, not a chance they could see Jesus as Messiah. They missed God when He came to them.

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John the Baptist was waiting for the violent revolution. He was waiting for Jesus, the Messiah, to come break him out of his prison, march on Rome and take down all those who were oppressing his people. He’s waiting for the liberation of his people. He’s waiting for the Fourth of July. He’s waiting for Bastille Day. But it’s not happening. He didn’t miss God, he announced Jesus to the world. But John did miss the signs himself that Jesus indeed the awaited Messiah.

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Jesus was bringing a revolution all right. But instead of a violent, bloody revolution, He was bringing a love revolution. All the prophecies were coming true, right on time. Isaiah had the virgin birth, Hosea had it in Bethlehem, Daniel gad the time pinned down. The Magi figured it out. It was right there for all to see, yet for those who were supposed to be waiting for Messiah it was so hard to see.
God has come. It is Jesus. Jesus is the coming of God. Just as Isaiah predicted, the blind cloud see, the deaf could here, get lame could walk, and the mute could talk. But still, Jesus didn’t come as John expected. Or the Pharisees. Or the Sadducees. All of them, even John, had their own notions, their own vision of what the Kingdom of God would look like, they all had their own expectation of what the Messiah would do for them.

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God will come and it will be Jesus. God is always coming, and it’s always Jesus. But will we see it? Will we recognize how and where Jesus comes into our lives?? Can we be quiet and contemplative enough to see beyond our own expectations and not miss what He is doing for us?
Do not draw a line from what you want God to do for you to how you believe He’s got to come. John was locked into a way God would come. He was waiting for a warrior Messiah to come liberate his people and drag the emperor behind His chariot. And John got disenchanted and discouraged when it didn’t happen.

John the Baptist in prison Matthew 14:3
God will come. But we don’t know how or when. God won’t be late, and will bring everything you need. John the Baptist never got out of King Herod’s prison. He was beheaded and died young. But – did his story end wrong?

john
Jesus did not do what John assumed he would. But he did not fail John. Have you ever heard someone lament -“That John the Baptist. He really could have been something. It’s too bad he died young, there’s no telling what he could have accomplished!” NO! You’ve never heard anyone say that. You’ve never thought that. John the Baptist is one of most honored lives in history. Every Orthodox Church in the world has an icon of John The Baptist. His story is told over and over again in churches around the world. Jesus did not fail John the Baptist. John was exactly where he needed to be. Jesus did not do what John assumed he would. But he did not fail John.
There is a message of the advent season. It’s a message for you if you’re in that burning desert, if you’re withering away, if you’re being burned in that fire.
Don’t be afraid. Trust God. God will come.

He will bring streams in the desert.

streams-in-the-desert
John the Baptist did not come to a bad end. We don’t expect to die in prison or get our heads cut off, but sometimes it feels like we are going to come to a bad end. “And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.” ‭‭Romans‬ ‭8:28‬ ‭NLT‬‬. No one who loves the way of Grace ever comes to a bad end.

“”Now I will arise,” says the Lord, “now I will lift myself up; now I will be exalted. You conceive chaff; you give birth to stubble; your breath is a fire that will consume you. And the peoples will be as if burned to lime, like thorns cut down, that are burned in the fire.” Hear, you who are far off, what I have done; and you who are near, acknowledge my might. The sinners in Zion are afraid; trembling has seized the godless: “Who among us can dwell with the consuming fire? Who among us can dwell with everlasting burnings?””

‭‭Isaiah‬ ‭33:10-14‬ ‭ESV‬‬

http://bible.com/59/isa.33.10-14.esv
“The wilderness and the dry land shall be glad; the desert shall rejoice and blossom like the crocus; it shall blossom abundantly and rejoice with joy and singing. The glory of Lebanon shall be given to it, the majesty of Carmel and Sharon. They shall see the glory of the Lord, the majesty of our God. Strengthen the weak hands, and make firm the feeble knees. Say to those who have an anxious heart, “Be strong; fear not! Behold, your God will come with vengeance, with the recompense of God. He will come and save you.” Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped; then shall the lame man leap like a deer, and the tongue of the mute sing for joy. For waters break forth in the wilderness, and streams in the desert; the burning sand shall become a pool, and the thirsty ground springs of water; in the haunt of jackals, where they lie down, the grass shall become reeds and rushes.”

‭‭Isaiah‬ ‭35:1-7‬ ‭ESV‬‬

http://bible.com/59/isa.35.1-7.esv
“The disciples of John reported all these things to him. And John, calling two of his disciples to him, sent them to the Lord, saying, “Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?” And when the men had come to him, they said, “John the Baptist has sent us to you, saying, ‘Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?'” In that hour he healed many people of diseases and plagues and evil spirits, and on many who were blind he bestowed sight. And he answered them, “Go and tell John what you have seen and heard: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, the poor have good news preached to them. And blessed is the one who is not offended by me.””

‭‭Luke‬ ‭7:18-23‬ ‭ESV‬‬

http://bible.com/59/luk.7.18-23.esv

John Lewis

A Battlefield or a Garden?

A Battlefield or a Garden?

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A beautiful, poetic prophecy from Isaiah, the great prophet of messiah. The great prophet who in so many ways saw the coming of Jesus 7 centuries before His birth. Prophets are the ones who reimagine the world as being better than it is, the ones the Holy Spirit chooses to give the imagination to, the vision, to see the world different and better than it is, and then the ability to communicate that vision.
Principalities and powers are often intimidated by the poet prophets. The status quo is just alright by them. Those in power never want people to have the idea that the world could be any other way. It threatens their authority. Isaiah made the powers and the empire so uncomfortable with his poetry (it’s just poetry!!??) and so enraged King Manasseh with his vision of the world different than it was that the king had him sawn in half. You have to be pretty angry to have someone sawn in two!! So just remember this as you read these passages.

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It shall come to pass in the latter days that the mountain of the house of the Lord shall be established as the highest of the mountains, and shall be lifted up above the hills; and all the nations shall flow to it, and many peoples shall come, and say: “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob, that he may teach us his ways and that we may walk in his paths.” 
Isaiah doesn’t know when, but he knows God is going to do something big. God will act in such a way that the world is going to take notice. The world is going to be drawn to the Lord, they will come to the Lord seeking to know His ways.
For out of Zion shall go the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. Isaiah doesn’t know the when, but he has the where figured out pretty well. He knows that whatever God is going to do at that point in the future, it’s going to have something to do with Jerusalem. Something’s going to happen in Jerusalem, and it’s going to be big. It’s going to change the world.

The Bible
We have hindsight on our side. Isaiah writes about Jesus, but he doesn’t know his name. He’s going to be called “Immanuel”, “God with us”, but that’s not His name. He’ll be called wonderful counselor, prince of peace, lord of lords, and king of kings, but those aren’t his name either. His name is Jesus, the lord saves, and we know his story. Isaiah had a vision of what was to come, we have the hindsight and privilege to know what Isaiah could not see. We know the baby would actually be born in Bethlehem, but something big would happen in Jerusalem. This baby would grow up and go into ministry. He would be a lightning rod for those in power, he would heal the sick, help the lame walk, and let the blind see. He would preach the sermon on the mount, teach love of enemy, and demonstrate and live out His own radical teaching dying from the Roman crucifix, forgiving those who tortured and killed Him even as they were torturing and killing Him.

viking_sword_01
This just occurred to me yesterday. To live by the sword is to die by the sword. Nothing but a cliche to us, but that comes from Jesus. “Jesus replied, “Do what you came for, friend.” Then the men stepped forward, seized Jesus and arrested him. With that, one of Jesusʼ companions reached for his sword, drew it out and struck the servant of the high priest, cutting off his ear. “Put your sword back in its place,” Jesus said to him, “for all who draw the sword will die by the sword.” Matthew‬ ‭26:50-52‬ ‭NIV‬‬. So here’s the thing – Jesus was being seized by the powers that be, to be led off to His crucifixion, and when Peter draws his sword and fights back, Jesus tells him NO!! To live by the sword is to die by the sword. As He is Himself being led off to die. In Luke’s telling it says “And one of them struck the servant of the high priest, cutting off his right ear. But Jesus answered, “No more of this!” And he touched the manʼs ear and healed him.” ‭‭Luke‬ ‭22:50-51‬ ‭NIV‬‬. You live by the sword, you die by the sword. “No more of this!” No more responding to violence with violence. No wonder Peter denied Him in the garden. It’s a hard walk to follow Jesus.
So we have the hindsight to know that yes, God DID act in Jerusalem. Because those in power took Jesus away, had their “trials”, and crucified Him.

calendar-2017-2018-2019
And what God did next, in Jerusalem, was big. Very big. So big in fact, it reset the calendar. We measure time by the event Isaiah is predicting right here, in 740 BC. BEFORE Christ. They killed Him, God raised Him. The word of the Lord will go out from Jerusalem. It was 740 years until the coming of Messiah, now it’s 2000 years since. We measure time based on this one event. We changed the calendar.  That’s how big it was.

plowshare
He shall judge between the nations, and shall decide disputes for many peoples; and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore. O house of Jacob, come, let us walk in the light of the Lord. A prophetic word from Isaiah, the world reimagined. Their swords turned into plowshares, their spears into pruning hooks. The tools of war turned into tools of agriculture, tools for gardening. For us, could you imagine tanks turned into tractors? Missile silos turned into grain silos?

tank
Here’s a question – do we see the world as a battleground or as a garden? Is the world a fundamentally threatening place? Is the whole world a battleground where we must keep our weapons close at hand, prepared to do battle at any time?  Or is it fundamentally the recipient of Gods grace and loving care?

tractor

Do we feel like the whole world is a battleground and we need to be always ready to grab our weapons and go fight for our rights? Or is the world a garden to be cultivated and nurtured for the glory of God?? Are we all soldiers? Or are we gardeners? Which was Jesus?

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To be continued…

“It shall come to pass in the latter days that the mountain of the house of the Lord shall be established as the highest of the mountains, and shall be lifted up above the hills; and all the nations shall flow to it, and many peoples shall come, and say: “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob, that he may teach us his ways and that we may walk in his paths.” For out of Zion shall go the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. He shall judge between the nations, and shall decide disputes for many peoples; and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore. O house of Jacob, come, let us walk in the light of the Lord.”

‭‭Isaiah‬ ‭2:2-5‬ ‭ESV‬‬

http://bible.com/59/isa.2.2-5.esv

John Lewis

The Greatest Wonder

wondrous_creation

This is the first week of advent, the coming of the Christmas season. The season of the coming of the Jewish Messiah. The season of the birth of the savior of the world. The season of the the celebration of God breaking into the world in a human body. The season of the mystery of the Word became flesh.

wondrous-lake-house-wallpaper-1366x768-537e1b551ddb0
Albert Einstein once said we can live our lives in one of two ways. We can go through our lives as if nothing is a miracle. Or we can live our lives like EVERYTHING is a miracle. I don’t know how a man (or a woman) can look at his just born child and not know that he’s seeing a miracle. I don’t know how we as a race can’t look at the world we live on in this massive ever expanding universe and not know that us just being is a miracle, that indeed it is wondrous. I don’t know how I’m supposed to go from Phoenix, Arizona, wondering at the majesty to be observed in that desert landscape with all those gorgeous mountains and beautiful formations, back to my home near the Chesapeake Bay all in a matter of hours and not be struck with wonder at the miracles of creation and all that is.

blue_whales
We live in a world of wonder. We may not live in a state of wonder, but we should. We live in a world of sparrows and a world of blue whales. We live in a world of mountain tops and a world of valleys. A world of sunshine and white sand, a world of freezing temperatures and falling snow. We live in a world of adorable kittens and a world of ferocious lions. A world of beauty. A world of joy. A world of wonder.

lions-wallpaper-1
Yet something about our broken world keeps us from appreciating the wonder all around us. As children we live in awe of the most simple things – the rolling penny, the skipping rock, the fish on the hook, the empty box. But as we grow older, we lose that sense of wonder. We become numb to all that is wondrous around us, we just go through life trudging through one day after another.

sweet-newborn-baby-pictures
We lose our appreciation for the wonders of creation. It’s no wonder then, really, that we either 1). Take for granted or 2). Simply don’t believe the greatest wonder, the greatest miracle that ever was – “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us….” John‬ ‭1:14‬ ‭ESV‬‬.
In this season of advent we celebrate the coming of Jesus Christ…the Word became flesh. We know, at least we profess that we know, that Jesus was fully God, and fully human. Most Christians have no qualms with the divinity of Christ. We can give two amens and a hallelujah to the statement that yes, Jesus was fully God.

jesus-fully-human
But to say Jesus was fully human…we really wonder if it’s really true. . We wonder HOW that can be. Oh, we can say the words alright. But there’s kind of that wink wink with it. “Yeah, Jesus is human just like me…wink wink.” We just can’t wrap our minds around it.
We like the thought of Jesus being fully God. It gives us room for separation from the ideas of Jesus. So…we are called as Christians to live our neighbors and pray for our enemies. We are called to forgive others as we would want to be forgiven. We are called to forgive others as we have been forgiven. Jesus being fully God gives us our “out” on all these hard teachings. Jesus could do that, but hey He’s God, right. Nobody can be perfect.

above-a-wondrous-foggy-valley-wallpaper-1366x768-530f0a8eab32a
But if Jesus was really fully human, now that’s a challenge. Nobody can be perfect, except Jesus did live that perfect, sinless life. We tell ourselves that being sinful is simply a part of being human. But now, if we believe Jesus was fully human, just as human as you, that challenges that assumption.  If Jesus was fully human, yet He lived a perfectly sinless life, then our sin natures are no longer excused as just a part of our humanity. If Jesus was fully human, fully incarnate, then maybe our assumption that being sinful just is a part of being human…is simply wrong. Maybe, just maybe, it’s not central to our being.

wondrous-reflection-in-rocky-pond-wallpaper-53666c976a2f0
Let me say this – Christmas is not a simply God dressing up like a human being being. Jesus was not God “in costume” pretending to be one of us. Jesus was conceived by the Holy Spirit (with God ALL things are possible), born of the Virgin Mary. But He was indeed fully human. He was born into our broken world of violence and vengeance. From the moment He was born, He had death squads sent to kill Him. He started His ministry, and people from His own hometown tried to kill Him. He was the subject of murder plots, rumors, and accusations. We know He was  crucified by our broken system of blame and accusation. But ultimately, we also know that His murder was overturned by the Father on Easter Sunday, vindicating His Way of radical forgiveness all the way through death on a crucifix.

wondrous
Remember that when Jesus started His ministry, the first thing He did was get baptized. He was baptized for the repentance of sins, yet He had no personal sin. So why was He baptized?? Because He did not separate Himself from us. He joined with us in our broken world. He became part of a race with enormous systemic sin, He became part of our sinful world. He did not simply point His finger at us and say “All you sinners need to repent.” No, He joined with us, and instead said “We have a problem.” And so He led the way in being baptized for the repentance of our sins.  He led us into the journey to right relationship with God.
Imagine you travel back in time to a village in Galilee over 2000 years ago. Someone asks you to babysit 10 2 year old boys (oh the horror!) for a couple of hours. Then they tell you one of them is Jesus. Can you pick Him out? You can’t tell, can you. Guess what? He doesn’t know either. Fully human.

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Imagine you’ve skipped forward about 30 years. Now you see Jesus sitting by the well at Sychar. “Jacob’s well was there; so Jesus, wearied as he was from his journey, was sitting beside the well. It was about the sixth hour.” John‬ ‭4:6‬ ‭ESV‬‬. So here we see, Jesus is tired. He walked on water once but He was frequently….tired. He can walk on water but now He’s tired. He can turn waster into wine but now He’s thirsty. He can feed the 5000 but now He’s…hungry.
There are times in the Jesus narrative when the divinity of Christ pops out like a sign. But He lived everyday…fully human. He knew sorrows. He knew tears. He knew pain.
Then we have Jesus dying. He doesn’t die joyously like the Greek philosopher Socrates. He doesn’t see His body as a cage to be freed from. He is Jewish, not a Greek philosopher. He sees His body as good.  He sees His created being as good.  He goes to His death with tears. With dread. He asks the Father to find another way – “And he said, “Abba, Father, all things are possible for you. Remove this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.”” Mark‬ ‭14:36‬ ‭ESV‬‬.
Whatever it means for a human being to die, God has felt it. Whatever it means for a human being to suffer, God has felt it. We live in a world with pain and suffering. But God has not exempted Himself from the pain and suffering, He came and joined us in our pain and suffering. He’s a part of our world of blame and shame, accusation and suffering. But He comes back in His resurrection not with a word of vengeance but words of peace. If advent, if Christmas is about anything at all, it us about the coming of the Prince of Peace into the world. He comes to us and shows us what the sinless life looks like, then challenges us to follow – “You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” ‭‭Matthew‬ ‭5:48‬ ‭ESV‬‬.
Don’t miss out on the wonder of our world. And never forget the greatest wonder them all – the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.

“When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.” And they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger. And when they saw it, they made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child. And all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them. But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart.”

‭‭Luke‬ ‭2:15-19‬ ‭ESV‬‬

http://bible.com/59/luk.2.15-19.esv
“And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.”

‭‭John‬ ‭1:14‬ ‭ESV‬‬

http://bible.com/59/jhn.1.14.esv

John Lewis

Keep the Christ in…

Keep the Christ in…

keep_christ_in_christmas_2

“At that time Emperor Augustus ordered a census to be taken throughout the Roman Empire. When this first census took place, Quirinius was the governor of Syria. Everyone, then, went to register himself, each to his own hometown. Joseph went from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to the town of Bethlehem in Judea, the birthplace of King David. Joseph went there because he was a descendant of David. He went to register with Mary, who was promised in marriage to him. She was pregnant, and while they were in Bethlehem, the time came for her to have her baby. She gave birth to her first son, wrapped him in cloths and laid him in a manger—there was no room for them to stay in the inn.” ‭Luke‬ ‭2:1-7‬ ‭GNT

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During this holiday season, and for as many as I can remember now, we’ve all heard the admonishment to “keep Christ in Christmas”. This is a decades old response to the commercialization of Christmas. A response to the beginnings of consumer Christianity threatening to take over Christmas. At some point it got drafted into the culture wars and has been reduced to little more than a battle cry.

birth-of-the-lord-jesus-christ

She gave birth to her first son, wrapped him in cloths and laid him in a manger—there was no room for them to stay in the inn. Yes, I’m back to the them of no room at the inn. Because during this time of advent, this time of preparing ourselves for the coming of Christ, the biggest challenge we face is not keeping the Christ in Christmas. I’m going to borrow again from Pastor Brian Zahnd, who himself took it from someone else, but the biggest challenge we face is not keeping Christ in Christmas. The biggest challenge we face during this time is how to keep the Christ in Christians.

inn-no-room-mary-joseph_1604219_inl
We have no room at the inn, no room for Christ. We know the story, Mary and Joseph had to travel to be registered for the census, and she was with child with the baby Jesus. When they got to Bethlehem, there was an inn. But of course, there was no room at the inn, so Jesus couldn’t be born at the inn. This has been thought over, talked about and portrayed in many different ways over the years. Sometimes the innkeeper is portrayed as heartless and callous, completely without sympathy for the young man and his expectant bride. He’s seen as kind of harsh soup nazi character who yells at the two “NO ROOM FOR YOU!” So they then wind up in the cold with the animals.

no-room-at-the-inn
Or sometimes the innkeeper is portrayed as a sympathetic character, a guy working hard trying to make a living. He sees the young couple and simply has no room in his inn, but offers for them to stay with the animals. It’s not ideal, but at least it’s shelter and hey, it’s all he’s got.

nativity2
Bottom line is this – when Jesus was born there was no room at the inn. So Jesus was born where there was room for him, in the stable with the animals, to lie in a manger in swaddling clothes.
Advent is the season when we prepare for the birth of Christ. It’s not just the celebration, the gathering with family, the Christmas dinner, the exchanging of our best gifts. It’s also about our preparing for Him to be born into our lives in new ways. It’s about us making room in our hearts for Him to come into our own little world. If we want Christ to be born into our lives in fresh new ways during we must prepare room for Him to be born into our hearts. Christian repentance is the act of making room for Christ to born into our lives in new ways.

make-room-for-jesus-2
What is it that we need to rearrange in our lives to make room for Jesus? To take in a pregnant girl and her husband, you gotta make room. You gotta make some arrangements. What’s cluttering up our hearts keeping us from making room for Jesus in our lives??
Here in 21st America, we have many different things crowding Jesus out of our lives. Not trying to be self righteous, condemning or accusing here, just about all if these I struggle with myself, but here’s a short list of things which might be filling up our hearts and minds and crowding Jesus out of our little inn.

so-busy
1). Busy-ness. One letter removed from business. This is the sin we all take pride in committing. By that I mean we all claim to know it’s wrong to live this way, to be so busy you crowd out some many important things from your life. We say we know it’s a problem, but even though it’s a problem we are proud to have this problem. We brag about it. “I’m sooo busy!!” And trust me…”I’M SO BUSY!!” We are so busy…aren’t we all just so important?? We claim to know it’s wrong, I claim to know it’s wrong. Yet we strive for it. We aim for it. Even if we’re not really all that busy, we want to be able to say “I’m so busy!!”
We are almost a completely non-contemplative society. To slow down to just be with Christ is just un-American, isn’t it? We would much rather be able to boast in our busy-ness. Why do we boast about it? We don’t boast about other sins in our lives. “I’m such a liar!” “I stole so many things today!

jesus_with_teen_sitting_on_a_bench
If we don’t rake the time for reading scripture, meditating, contemplating, if we don’t take time to meditate and contemplate in prayer, if we don’t take the time to sit with Jesus, there is almost no chance for him to be born into our lives in a new way. It takes time. Our sin of busy-ness can crowd prayer and Jesus right out of our lives. But…we are Americans!! We gotta be productive all the time, don’t we?? But what are we missing out on? We have to make room in our inn, we must repent of our sin of busy-ness in our lives to make room for Jesus.

politics_0
2). Politics. Um, yes. Politics is bad for your soul. Partisan politics is poison for your soul. Politics itself is necessary. We must govern ourselves to be a civil society. What is not necessary is to obsess, worry and argue over politics.
Few things have been more poisonous American Christianity than the addiction to 24 hour news. Once upon a time…in a galaxy far far away 😉…we were all able to get along politically. Before the internet, before CNN, before Wolf Blitzer, Chris Matthews and Sean Hannity, we were able to sit a table with those on the opposite political persuasion, even on election night, and be civilized. That is gone. Period. Even among Christians. Addiction to cable news has given us a very ugly Christianity.

24-hour-news-cycle1
You do not have to be a political junkie to be a responsible citizen. Remember the fruit of the spirit?? “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.” Galatians‬ ‭5:22-23‬ ‭ESV‬‬. If you have Christ in you and live with love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self control, you will do just fine as a citizen. You do not have to obsess, argue and watch the 24 hour news to be a good citizen.

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But, you can not be a political junkie and a responsible Christian. If you are a political junkie and constantly watch the 24 hour news, you will get sucked into our team sport approach to politics. You will get sucked into the us vs them mentality, you will be sucked into our scorched earth political culture, where we must win at all costs even if we destroy what we claim we are fighting for. And scorched earth politics squeezes Jesus right out of our hearts. It leaves no room in our inn.

mad-hulk
3). Anger. Or wrath. Or fury. Whatever word you want to use, and angry heart has no room for Jesus. We live in an age where the angry rant is considered a high art form. But remember what the apostle Paul says – “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what Godʼs will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” Romans‬ ‭12:2‬ ‭NIV‬‬. Just because the world around us is angry down not mean we are to respond in anger. We are not to conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of our mind in Christ Jesus.
To hold rage and anger in our hearts crowds Christ out, leaving no room at the inn.

Sometimes we like to think that we might be angry, but it’s wrath of God angry. Let’s be simple – our human rage is not the divine wrath of God. We like to compare ourselves to Jesus in the temple, where we tell ourselves Jesus just “lost it!“In the temple courts he found people selling cattle, sheep and doves, and others sitting at tables exchanging money. So he made a whip out of cords, and drove all from the temple courts, both sheep and cattle; he scattered the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables. To those who sold doves he said, “Get these out of here! Stop turning my Fatherʼs house into a market!”” John‬ ‭2:14-16‬ ‭NIV‬‬. First – you are not Jesus. You are probably not LIKE Jesus. Second – let’s say what this is NOT – this is NOT Jesus “losing it” and angrily chasing people out of the temple. So he made a whip out of cords…he made a whip, from scratch, braiding the cords together. Jesus did this in premeditated fashion. He didn’t “lose it.” It was a prophetic protest of profiteering in the temple. Also – and drove all from the temple courts, both sheep and cattle. He drove the sheep and cattle.  The people may have followed, but  He was not whipping and chasing people, as this is often depicted. What Jesus is doing is an orchestrated, planned, prophetic reenactment of Jeremiah chapter 7. “Has this house, which bears my Name, become a den of robbers to you? But I have been watching! declares the Lord.” Jeremiah‬ ‭7:11‬ ‭NIV‬‬.
Our human rage does not in some way make us Christ like. Paul tells us our human wrath is a work of the flesh – “Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions,” Galatians‬ ‭5:19-20‬ ‭ESV‬‬. Paul ehaorts his followers over and over again, to be gentle and peaceable, not angry and raging. “If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.” Romans‬ ‭12:18‬ ‭ESV

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If you have to be angry in your heart to work for justice, you do not have the fullness of Christ in you heart. Conservatives are driven by conservative anger. Liberals are driven by liberal anger. Christians are driven by the peace of Christ.
If Mother Theresa, Nelson Mandela, or Desmond Tutu had been driven by anger, we would have never even heard of them. Instead, they were driven by the love of Christ, and in very real ways they changed the world.

greed
4). Greed. This one is too easy. We all know it. Consumerism is the great Golden Calf of American Christianity. Golden calf?? it’s our great running of the Golden Bulls!! Jesus told us “”No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.” ‭‭Matthew‬ ‭6:24‬ ‭ESV‬‬. We can not serve God and money. We know this because Jesus told us. Or do we?? In reality, we’ve (as in Christianity) spent the last 2000 years trying to figure out exactly how Jesus was wrong here. We know He’s not wrong, but we try to figure it out anyway.
That’s because we love our money. We can not serve God and money. So…we choose money. We like money. Money makes us feel good. Money makes us feel secure. We can buy nice things.

humanity
We are good at making money in America. We are good at business. But…we are children of God. We have a family business. Mankind is our business. The common welfare is our business. Charity, mercy, and benevolence is our business. Faith, hope and love are our business. Our trade, how we make a living, is just a drop in the bucket for the big picture of our lives.
It’s how we live our lives that shows whether we love God or money.

make-room
Busy-ness, politics, anger and greed. Four of the greatest American idols. Repent of these sins and make room in your hearts. Make room in your inn. Make room to keep Christ in Christians.

“And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.”

‭‭Luke‬ ‭2:7‬ ‭ESV‬‬

http://bible.com/59/luk.2.7.esv

John Lewis

Of a Revolution

Of a Revolution

marys-song

Mary’s song, the Magnificat, one of our greatest hymns. It’s also a call to revolution. In fact, it has been called the most revolutionary document in the world.

sea-of-galilee
Mary came from Galilee. It’s referred to in scripture as “Galilee of the Gentiles”. The Galilean people were known for being hotheaded. The authorities (the empire) would have told you they were troublemakers. In fact, they probably would have said that trouble always starts in Galilee.
There was constant contact between Jews and Gentiles in Galilee. That’s why it’s referred to in scripture as “Galilee of the Gentiles”.

sea-of-galilee-today
Mary was a Jew, but would have been very familiar with the pagan ways of the Gentiles. Mary would have been on the lower economic rungs of the ladder. She would have been familiar with working the land, and with physical labor.

song-of-miriam
Mary, being Jewish, would have been named after Miriam, the sister of Moses. Miriam is the one who led the women in song after the Egyptians were drowned in the Red Sea at the exodus. “Then Miriam the prophetess, the sister of Aaron, took a tambourine in her hand, and all the women went out after her with tambourines and dancing. And Miriam sang to them: “Sing to the Lord, for he has triumphed gloriously; the horse and his rider he has thrown into the sea.”” ‭‭Exodus‬ ‭15:20-21‬ ‭ESV‬‬.

rebellion
Mary is the English version of Miriam. Miriam itself means “rebellion”. So we have a young teenage girl from the rebellious town of Galilee, whose parents saw fit to name her “rebellion”. And Mary sings her hymn in response to her older relative Elizabeth proclaiming to Mary “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb!” Luke‬ ‭1:42‬ ‭ESV‬‬ in response herself to John the Baptist jumping in her own womb at the presence of Mary with child in her home. Which is odd in and of itself because their would have been no reason to suspect young Miriam was pregnant, in fact it would have been quite scandalous if she were.

revolutionary
So it is when Mary goes to visit her relative Elizabeth, mother of John the Baptist, and John leaps in her womb at the presence of Mary that she writes her  beautiful, yet most revolutionary carol.

praise4
Mary responded, “Oh, how my soul praises the Lord. How my spirit rejoices in God my Savior! For he took notice of his lowly servant girl, and from now on all generations will call me blessed. Mary certainly acknowledges the fact that she has been blessed by the Lord. For he took notice of his lowly servant girl, one of the great themes of the Bible in general and from the Jesus in particular. “So the last will be first, and the first last.”” Matthew‬ ‭20:16‬ ‭ESV‬‬. In fact, she says that from now on all generations will call me blessed, how true has that proven to be?

jesus-son-of-david
The opening of Mary’s song, and in fact her entire song is reminiscent of a similar song sung by Hannah when she gives up her son Samuel, as she had previously promised, to the priest Eli so his life could be dedicated to the service of the Lord. This is the same Samuel who twice anointed David king of Israel, the same David through whom Matthew traces the lineage of Jesus through to open his Gospel – “The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham.”  Matthew 1:1 ESV.  The same David who was promised his descendant would reign forever – “When your days are fulfilled and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring after you, who shall come from your body, and I will establish his kingdom.  He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever.” 2 Samuel 7:12-13 ESV.  This is the Hannah we are talking about.  And Hannah prayed and said, “My heart exults in the Lord; my horn is exalted in the Lord. My mouth derides my enemies, because I rejoice in your salvation. Hannah was an older woman, like Elizabeth, who had been unable to conceive, and made her promise to the Lord while praying for a child. And as we see over and over again, as a recurring theme of the Bible, from Abraham and Sarah, to Hannah, to Elizabeth, just when we have given up hope for ourselves, God acts and something new is conceived. A new hope comes just when we have given up hope, right at the point where there seems to be no hope. Reminds me of the words of the one Mary is carrying – “With man it is impossible, but not with God. For all things are possible with God.”” Mark‬ ‭10:27‬ ‭ESV‬‬.

last-shall-be-first
For the Mighty One is holy, and he has done great things for me. He shows mercy from generation to generation to all who fear him. His mighty arm has done tremendous things! Like Hannah, Mary uses one of the names of Yahweh to show his might and power, and to reflect His character. He is the Mighty One, He shows mercy to His people, He has done (and will continue to do) tremendous things.
He has scattered the proud and haughty ones. A revolutionary verse. A moral revolution. In the words of William Barclay, Christianity is the death of pride. Because if a man sets his life beside the life of Christ, the last of his pride is torn from him.

bouguereau-song-of-the-angels-1881-620x320

Sometimes we reach a point where we feel an overwhelming sense of shame and regret. We all have our sins and bad habits. Sometimes we get caught in them, we feel a sense of remorse and regret, and we can give that bad habit up. But sometimes we get caught up in something we know we shouldn’t have been doing, then we have to face some particular person, someone who maybe had not seen that part of us before. Maybe a grandmother or other family member, or a childhood friend, or someone we hadn’t seen in a long time. But for whatever reason, when we have to see that person in the light of the sin or wrong we have been doing, it brings on a much stronger sense of shame and regret.

It is in this way that Christ allows a man to see himself. It is the end of pride, the beginning of our own moral revolution.

end-of-pride
He has brought down princes from their thrones and exalted the humble. The social revolution. The end of the worlds labels and prestige. Again, the last will be first, and the first last. We get caught up in who had the power, who has the title. We look at people and make judgments based on appearances. As Hannah says in her song Talk no more so very proudly, let not arrogance come from your mouth; for the Lord is a God of knowledge, and by him actions are weighed. We take pride in all that we do, all we accomplish. We measure ourselves against other men, and in our own minds we are either successful or unsuccessful in whatever we attempt. But for all of our pride and all our achievements, we will be measured against another standard. The standard of Christ. “And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left. Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’ “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ Then they also will answer, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to you?’ Then he will answer them, saying, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’ And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”” Matthew‬ ‭25:33-46‬ ‭ESV‬‬. How will we measure up?

exalt-the-humble
He has filled the hungry with good things and sent the rich away with empty hands. An economic revolution. If we  claim we are a Christian society, we should not be an acquisitive society. We should feel uncomfortable in our own comforts while so many others are without the basics. We are called to be abundantly generous in all we have. How are we doing with that?
From Hannah’s song we see The Lord makes poor and makes rich; he brings low and he exalts. He raises up the poor from the dust; he lifts the needy from the ash heap to make them sit with princes and inherit a seat of honor. Mary tells us He will fill the hungry with good things and the rich go away empty. Hannah tells us he lifts up the needy from the ash heap to sit in the places of honor. Where is your ash heap?   Where is your garbage dump?

garbage-dump
Where is your place of pain, where is your place of need? Where is the place of sin in your life? Don’t have one? Then Jesus can do nothing for you. “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. Go and learn what this means, ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.’ For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.”” ‭‭Matthew‬ ‭9:12-13‬ ‭ESV‬‬. Jesus comes to your ash heap. He comes to your garbage dump.  He comes to your place of weakness, your place of pain. If you have it all together, if you are one of the righteous ones, if there is no ash heap in your life, Jesus has no place to meet you. Directly, He tells us I came not to call the righteous, but sinners. Waiting to get it all together to come to Jesus? Once you get it all together, Jesus has nothing for you.
But if out of your abundance you have some ash heap, some place of pain, some hurt, some hidden suffering in your life, He can meet you there. If it’s all together on the outside but a mess underneath, then he can meet you underneath it all.
Find your ash heap. See your mess. Accept your mess. Jesus will meet you there.  He will begin to revolutionize your life.

the-revolution
Mary wrote the revolutionary song.  Mary also gave birth to Jesus.  Jesus is the salvation of the world. Salvation that can only come of a revolution.

“Mary responded, “Oh, how my soul praises the Lord. How my spirit rejoices in God my Savior! For he took notice of his lowly servant girl, and from now on all generations will call me blessed. For the Mighty One is holy, and he has done great things for me. He shows mercy from generation to generation to all who fear him. His mighty arm has done tremendous things! He has scattered the proud and haughty ones. He has brought down princes from their thrones and exalted the humble. He has filled the hungry with good things and sent the rich away with empty hands. He has helped his servant Israel and remembered to be merciful. For he made this promise to our ancestors, to Abraham and his children forever.””

‭‭Luke‬ ‭1:46-55‬ ‭NLT‬‬

http://bible.com/116/luk.1.46-55.nlt
“And Hannah prayed and said, “My heart exults in the Lord; my horn is exalted in the Lord. My mouth derides my enemies, because I rejoice in your salvation. “There is none holy like the Lord: for there is none besides you; there is no rock like our God. Talk no more so very proudly, let not arrogance come from your mouth; for the Lord is a God of knowledge, and by him actions are weighed. The bows of the mighty are broken, but the feeble bind on strength. Those who were full have hired themselves out for bread, but those who were hungry have ceased to hunger. The barren has borne seven, but she who has many children is forlorn. The Lord kills and brings to life; he brings down to Sheol and raises up. The Lord makes poor and makes rich; he brings low and he exalts. He raises up the poor from the dust; he lifts the needy from the ash heap to make them sit with princes and inherit a seat of honor. For the pillars of the earth are the Lord ‘s, and on them he has set the world. “He will guard the feet of his faithful ones, but the wicked shall be cut off in darkness, for not by might shall a man prevail. The adversaries of the Lord shall be broken to pieces; against them he will thunder in heaven. The Lord will judge the ends of the earth; he will give strength to his king and exalt the horn of his anointed.””

‭‭1 Samuel‬ ‭2:1-10‬ ‭ESV‬‬

http://bible.com/59/1sa.2.1-10.esv

John Lewis

Walking in Peace

Walking in Peace

zechariahs-song

Then his father, Zechariah, was filled with the Holy Spirit and gave this prophecy:

A prophecy from Zechariah, father of John the Baptist, cousin of Jesus of Nazareth whom we know as Christ. (That’s some family!!). The prophecy comes from about 6 or 7 BC…about 6 months before Christ was born. So yes, Christ was born about 6 BC or so. What can I say, the calendar is a little off…

The prophecy of Zechariah comes at the circumcision of his son John, after he had just regained his speech following a period of being struck mute by an angel of the Lord for not believing what had been spoken about his son by the angel.

john-the-baptist

“And you, my little son, will be called the prophet of the Most High, because you will prepare the way for the Lord. You will tell his people how to find salvation through forgiveness of their sins. Because of God’s tender mercy, the morning light from heaven is about to break upon us, to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, and to guide us to the path of peace.” Remember how Mark’s gospel begins with that prophecy from Isaiah 40 about the coming of Messiah – “As it is written in Isaiah the prophet, “Behold, I send my messenger before your face, who will prepare your way, the voice of one crying in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight,'”” ‭Mark‬ ‭1:2-3‬ ‭ESV‬‬. John was sent ahead of Christ to prepare the way, to begin the work of softening the hearts of the people of God for the revealing of God right before their very eyes. He will prepare the way by telling the people they will find salvation through the forgiveness of their sins. Remember, under the law people had their sin nature revealed to them by just how difficult it was to live under the law, how impossible it was to follow every command, every food law, every law of the sabbath, every rule and regulation governing every part of their lives. To find salvation through the forgiveness of sins, rather than through punishment and trying not to do that thing anymore, was a radical shift.

morning-light

Because of God’s tender mercy, the morning light from heaven is about to break upon us…Now that’s a beautiful prophecy!! Because of God’s tender mercy…I’m not sure people at this time thought of God as particularly merciful. They had been through exile, returned from exile, through war with surrounding nations, waited and waited and waited for God’s elusive Messiah, 400 years of just waiting between the testaments, no word from God, many would-be Messiahs coming up, great warrior Messiahs like Judah Maccabeus, the kind of Messiah we are still waiting for today, the Messiah to come kick ass, take names, give it to our enemies, and make the world right. And by making the world right, we mean making the world come under our control, under our will, because after all we are the chosen people of God, right? But no…no word from God, no Messiah, just 400 years of false hopes and waiting under someone else’s rule and control. No tender mercy…

morningsun

But….the morning light from heaven is about to break upon us!!! The morning light from heaven, the Messiah, the one true king is about to break into the world!! This is the message John the Baptist came to bring, and it’s the prophecy of his father Zechariah his son coming into the world.

sitting-in-darkness

And just why is that morning star breaking into the world?? He is coming to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, and to guide us to the path of peace. Amen and amen. Jesus came to bring light to we who live in darkness, and to guide us in the pathway to peace. John will tell people how to gain salvation through the forgiveness of sins. Jesus will be the morning star breaking into the world, bringing light and guiding us on the path of peace.

Yes, Jesus came to bring salvation to the world. In fact, Jesus IS the salvation of the world. And a huge part of that salvation is peace.

All the way back to the beginnings of humanity, we know what happened. Adam and Eve lived in the garden, ate from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (maybe we should call it the tree of judgement??!! Good, evil, evil, good. I’m good and you’re evil. This is evil but that’s good…). They were expelled from the garden, had children and gave birth to a murderer.

We know this story too. Cain kills his brother Abel, moves east of Eden and founds the very first city on the earth. Our very first city, the very beginnings of our civilization, was started by a murderer based on the murder he committed. And if you look at the long story of world history ever since, it is really nothing more than the long history of wars. It is the story of one nation, one empire after another, each one beginning with the conquest of another, each one founded by violence against another. Each and every one somehow founded and begun based on and because of the murder of others.

prince-of-peace-jesus-11425887-400-500

But now that morning star is breaking into the world, and he will guide us in the path of peace. He is guiding us now, if we will follow. Jesus does not force peace upon us. The Kingdom of God is without coercion. It comes one invitation at a time, one act of forgiveness at a time. Jesus does not force peace upon us, but IF we follow Him, He WILL guide us there.

pathway_to_peace_and_tranquility_by_estruda-d6tur06

Peace is not a destination. Peace is a path. Peace is not where we arrive, it’s how we walk. We find peace by walking in peace, we walk in peace by following Jesus. Jesus is the Way. Jesus is “…the way, and the truth, and the life, no one comes to the Father except through me.” John‬ ‭14:6‬ ‭ESV‬‬. There is no hope for peace in the world apart from Jesus. If the way is not peaceable, it is not the way of following Jesus.

Jesus gave us the Sermon on the Mount, we could call that our Christian Manifesto. In this sermon Jesus taught His disciples, then and now, to love their enemies. Dying on the cross, he modeled the forgiveness of His enemies. Upon his resurrection, He offered the first words of the new world – “Peace be with you.”

peace-be-with-you

Of course, all this does not mean Jesus life was without conflict. Far from it. To advocate for peace in a world convinced peace is impossible is always controversial. If we assert peace is a path and not a destination we will be called many things. Naive, foolish, and many other more derogatory names we will be called.

peacemakers

There is a reason the seventh beatitude is followed by the eighth. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God. Blessed are the peacemakers. According to Jesus, they will be called the sons of God. After all, they are about the family business. This is followed by “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” Blessed are those who are persecuted for doing what us right. These two go hand in hand, blessed are the peacemakers, and blessed are those persecuted for doing right.

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Jesus showed us the path of peace with much conflict and opposition. Still, He forgave His enemies and did no harm. Then He called upon His disciples, again then and now, to take up our cross and follow Him. It is the way to life and peace.

U.S. Marines from Lima Company 3rd Battalion, 6th Marines aim their weapons during a shootout with Taliban fighters in Karez-e-Sayyidi in the outskirts of Marjah district

Those who walk in darkness say that war is the way to peace. Ever heard that one? They simply can not see any other way. They can not imagine any other way upon which this world can be ordered. But very simply, war is not the pathway to peace. Even in our modern times, we’ve had two great world wars, both touted as the war to end all wars. How did that work out?? Trace all these wars back to their roots, and keep following the string, you wind up finding Cain. War is not the way to peace. War is just the way to the next war.
We live in dangerous times. We all know the physical dangers, we feel the physical dangers. We look around and wonder just what are we to do to feel safe again. But really, what I’m talking about here is a dangerous time for the church.

During these dangerous times, the church has been and will be tempted to react, and the world is watching. We are tempted (by Satan) to react with fear, bigotry, hate, scapegoating, and revenge. We must remember that satan is always on the side of fear and hate. We must also remember that satan always appears as an angel of light.
“No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.” ‭‭1 Corinthians‬ ‭10:13‬ ‭ESV‬‬. We live in a time of temptation for the church. The world is watching us during this time of fear, hatred and violence. People will be looking to the church. If we can overcome the temptation and walk in the path of peace, we will gain a new credibility for the gospel, a new hearing for what we believe about Jesus Christ. We will be light in the darkness. As Jesus said, “”You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden.” Matthew‬ ‭5:14‬ ‭ESV‬‬.

jesus-at-peace

We are the people of Jesus. Even non Christians know that Jesus taught us to love our enemies. It is in giving that we receive. It is in pardoning and forgiving others that we are forgiven. It is in taking up our cross and dying that we are born into eternal life.

jesus-whipped-485

“Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you. For behold, darkness shall cover the earth, and thick darkness the peoples; but the Lord will arise upon you, and his glory will be seen upon you. And nations shall come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your rising.”
‭‭Isaiah‬ ‭60:1-3‬ ‭ESV‬‬. It is advent, the season of celebrating the birth of our savior. Because of God’s tender mercy, the morning light from heaven is about to break upon us, to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, and to guide us to the path of peace. We are called to be the light in the darkness. The world is in deep darkness, and we are so tempted to react to the darkness with more darkness. As my pastor closes every sermon on Sunday, we do need to “go be the church.”

 

The world is looking to us to be the church that is the light of the world, and lead people out of the darkness and onto the path of peace.

Because there is no way to peace. Peace is the way.
“Then his father, Zechariah, was filled with the Holy Spirit and gave this prophecy:

“And you, my little son, will be called the prophet of the Most High, because you will prepare the way for the Lord. You will tell his people how to find salvation through forgiveness of their sins. Because of God’s tender mercy, the morning light from heaven is about to break upon us, to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, and to guide us to the path of peace.””
‭‭Luke‬ ‭1:67, 76-79‬ ‭NLT‬‬
http://bible.com/116/luk.1.67,76-79.nlt

“”Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God. “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”
‭‭Matthew‬ ‭5:9-10‬ ‭ESV‬‬
http://bible.com/59/mat.5.9-10.esv

“No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.”
‭‭1 Corinthians‬ ‭10:13‬ ‭ESV‬‬
http://bible.com/59/1co.10.13.esv

“Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you. For behold, darkness shall cover the earth, and thick darkness the peoples; but the Lord will arise upon you, and his glory will be seen upon you. And nations shall come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your rising.”
‭‭Isaiah‬ ‭60:1-3‬ ‭ESV‬‬
http://bible.com/59/isa.60.1-3.esv
John Lewis